Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI in Mueller['s deep-state] probe | 01 Dec 2017 | Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to a charge of making false statements to the FBI about his communications with Russia. A two-page charging document filed Thursday lists two false statements Flynn made about his interactions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December 2016. It says Flynn falsely claimed that he had not asked Kislyak on Dec. 29 "to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the U.S. had imposed against Russia," and that he didn't recall Kislyak telling him Russia had decided to moderate its response as a result of his request. [Why wasn't (unindicted 9/11 co-conspirator) James Comey prosecuted for leaking to the media? General Flynn had a meeting - *so what?*]
This week, I spent Monday evening to Wednesday evening at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield, England. It’s a stately home run by a worker-owned co-op and I was there with my We Are Open colleagues for the second annual Co-operative Technologists (CoTech) gathering. CoTech is a network of UK-based co-operatives who are focused on tech and digital...
I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I was delighted by the willingness of the 60+ people present to get straight into finding ways we can all work together. We made real progress over the couple of days I was there, and I was a little sad that other commitments meant I couldn’t stay until the bitter end on Thursday lunchtime.
Go to the GEO front page
Greece: Revolutionary Struggle Prisoners Pola Roupa & Nikos Maziotis Refuse Hospital Transfer on Day 20 of Hunger Strike
from insurrection news.
STATEMENT OF POLA ROUSA AND NIKOS MAZIOTIS, MEMBERS OF REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE IN RELATION TO HOSPITAL TRANSFER
On the 20th day of our hunger strike, the prison doctors have referred us to an external hospital.
Over the last few days, we have stated that in order for us to be transferred to a hospital, the prison authorities must allow us to have telephone communication at the hospital with our child, since on previous occassions when we were hospitalized we were denied communication.
Since the prison authorites have not replied to our request, we refuse to be transferred to hospital.
It should also be noted that the Justice Department have so far ignored our request for them to withdraw Article 11 from the new prison code, which basically reintroduces Type C Prisons. The prison authorites also refuse to reply to our demands regarding the right to have visits with our child for 3 hours and visits between us for 2 hours when we have no other visitors and for Nikos to be moved from isolation.
Pola Roupa – Nikos Maziotis
members of Revolutionary Struggle
(via Athens Indymedia, translated by Insurrection News)Tags: anarchist prisonerscommuniqueathensinternationalcategory: Prisoners
From IAS - by Shane Burley
With the growth of the Alt-Right and the Trumpist movement in the US, the Left has grappled with how to understand and define fascism in the 21st century context. The conditions, players, and tactics are fundamentally different than its first manifestations, and so many antiquated studies have left inarticulate descriptions or inadequate culprits as roadmaps for understanding fascism today. Instead, these twenty-five statements are a proposal for how to understand the essential core of fascism–what binds it together as a modern impulse despite its different manifestations across cultures and time.
Fascism in the 21st century has direct continuity to the insurgent movements that tore apart Europe, culminating in the Second World War. The methods, tactics, and strategies have changed, but the potential of the genocidal-racialist machine remains, and the ideologies are linked through history.
Fascism does not necessitate a specific type of statecraft (or a state at all), nor does it require a particular party apparatus, a fixed demographic of finance capital, or economic depression. What it does require is mass politics, popular support, and the ongoing destructive upheaval of class society.
When inequality is sanctified, identities made to be fixed and essential, and a mythic past is demanded in a distinctly post-industrial, modern world, fascism is the manifestation of the “True Right,” a distinct political identity revolting against democracy and equality. This real right wing exists throughout history, with fascism acting as the “reactionary modernist” version of the tendency towards violent inequality and essentialized identity. Fascism represents the iconic manifestation of the “True Right,” which then presents itself as a repudiation of the founding principles of liberal democracy.
Nihilism, as an apolitical destructive force, is a part of the fascist process, one that requires a destruction of the old infrastructure of morality so that a new mythic one can be built. Fascism often tries to colonize methods used on the Left/post-Left to achieve this creative destruction, disingenuously adopting revolutionary deconstruction.
The impulsive nature of reactionary violence is stoked by fascist ideology and ideologues in an effort to center an irrationalist response to the unbinding rage of modernity. In a culture that trains the working class in systems of bigotry, energy is forced toward scapegoating rather than directing that alienation at the oppressive institutions that birth it.
Today, fascism is largely built on metapolitics rather than explicit politics. Fascist projects attempt to influence culture, perspectives, and morality as precursors to politics. This puts much of their work into the realm of art and music, philosophy and lectures, counter-institutions and counterpower. This is the development of a fascist value and aesthetic set, not simply a fascist political program.
The values set by fascists enable them to use methodologies traditionally associated with the Left, including mass politics, postcolonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-capitalism. Fascists employ the power of the marginalized classes and redirect their anger against systemic inequality and alienation against other marginalized people, thus reframing the source of the crisis.
Because of their strategic and revolutionary orientation, fascists have historically been able to draw on disaffected areas of the Left. There is no revolutionary tradition that is free from far-right entry, wherein the flaws in radical Left analysis and practice allow for fascists to present an alternative and recruit.
Nationalism is itself considered the core motivating vision in fascism, yet it is actually only a subset of the larger identitarian trend. Tribalism, of which nationalism is only one type, is the key component of this assertion of essential identity. Nationalism is a version of this that will always be tied to the nation state, and therefore tribalism placed in a modern context necessitates itself through nationalism, but this is not universal. The modern fascist movement redefines itself consistently in praxis, and reimagining that tribalism means that how they divide up tribe, and the social authorities that reinforce the boundaries of that tribe, can change.
Ethnic nationalism is a foundational principle of fascism today, a type of racial tribalism, which is not relegated only to white nationalism or the civic nationalism of Western nations. This draws on an ethnopluralist ethic of “nationalism for all peoples,” which attempts to ally with nationalist components of Third World national liberation movements, minority nationalist movements, and those resisting Western imperialist powers. When racial nationalism is used as a component solution to confronting oppressive powers, it makes itself the potential ally of a fascist logic that sees the answer to capitalism and imperialism in authoritarian forms of identitarianism.
Fascism’s focus on immigration, founded on the desire for monoracial countries, draws on the anxieties that are often tied to Left organizing. The “offshoring” of jobs due to neoliberal globalization, isolationist rhetoric in the anti-war movement, labor institutions’ fears of immigrant workers driving down wages, environmental fears associated with population growth, the scapegoating of Islamic immigrants for supposedly repudiating liberal norms, and the smug liberal secularism of the US coasts, are all well mobilized by fascist movements attempting to use liberal modes of thought for their own anti-immigrant populism.
The Alt-Right is the most coherent and fully formed fascist movement in several decades. The mislabeling of all Trump supporters as true Alt-Right adherents, whether those in Patriot or militia organizations, or those in New Right or Alt-Lite projects of right populism, has created a fuzzy media spectacle that misses the Alt-Right’s true motivations. The belief in human inequality, social traditionalism, racial nationalism, and an authoritarian vision founded in the resurrection of heroic mythologies are what distinguish the Alt-Right as a self-conscious fascist movement.
Third Positionism, which draws Left ideas into fascist politics, is the dominant form of open fascism today. True fascist ideologues, the “idea makers” in these movements who currently make up the most radical element, necessarily consider themselves anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and opposed to current Western governments.
Fascism has often been described as a process of multiple stages, in the way that it starts from a radical cadre and develops to the point of acquiring political power. But this is a description of a particular historical moment of fascism, rather than a universal description of its operational trajectory. This understanding should be revised for different periods and countries where power, influence, and social cohesion appear differently. For instance, in interwar Europe, party politics developed coalitions for state power, but in other times and places power could also involve the church, the media, or cultural centers. In modern America, fascists are allying with an online culture that helped the Alt-Right grow and take over influential cultural spaces with the ability to influence essential parts of the larger society. In the 21st century US, party politicians have waning influence while internet celebrities are more influential than anyone could have ever dreamed.
While “The Five Stages of Fascism” described by scholar Robert O. Paxton outline the process by which fascism took power, and then went into decline in Europe before and during the Second World War, both the conditions and movements are fundamentally different now. Predicting the process for power acquisition and possible failure in a period when fascism remains primarily influential in culture and insurgent movements is impossible to predict fully in advance.
The crisis for fascists today comes from the contradictions in their approach to their own growth. Fascism of the interwar period relied first on political organizing, which then had to consider media representation. The Alt-Right of the 21st century developed almost entirely online through a culture of memes and hashtags. While this has given them a huge jump in the expanse of their messaging, they have since had trouble translating this into real-world engagement and subsequent organizing. The vulgarity of their language, the style of their approach, and the demographics of their retweeters does not necessarily extend to radical organization and organizing.
If fascists see cultural spaces as premeditating political ones, then the movement of fascists into cultural spaces is effectively political. If fascist public speech is intended to recruit and organize, then fascist public expression is indistinguishable from fascist organizing. If fascist organizing results in violence, whether explosions of “seemingly random” street violence, or genocide if they were to take power, then fascist organizing is fascist violence. Unlike other forms of revolutionary politics, fascism seeks to sanctify violence, built directly into their conception of identity and a correctly hierarchical society. Therefore, even the most muted fascist ideologue holds the kernels of brutality.
Fascism can only hide its violence for so long. The history of white nationalism has been the history of bloodthirsty terrorism, a point which marks all fascist parties and organizations in all countries in all times. While fascist intellectuals and movement leaders desperately want to decouple the image of identitarian nationalist ideas from street and state violence, this is impossible in the real world. Within a long enough time frame there will always be killing.
Fascism could not exist in a period before mass politics. While it is decidedly elitist–it believes that society should be run, in part, by an elite caste–it also requires the mass participation of the public. This means recruiting from large segments of the working class, requiring their complicity in increased oppression. Hannah Arendt described the way this works as the “banality of evil,” to characterize the casual complicity and bureaucratic malaise of the German people in the events of World War II and the Holocaust. This banality is a requirement for fascism to take power, for a mass to believe its benefits worth its cost. This is the unity of populism with elitism, resetting the mentality of the masses so that they can walk themselves to destruction.
The conditions that breed fascism, the unfinished equation of late capitalism, are only likely to become more ingrained and dramatic. Crisis is essential to capitalism and will increase as global economic markets continue to shake with instability. That penchant for crisis, mixed with the stratification built into capitalism and the state’s reliance on bigotry, makes fascist explosions inevitable.
The Left’s inability to provide a real and viable alternative to the current system, and its capitulation to institutions of power, are what give fascism its strongest rhetorical appeal. An effective anti-fascist movement would do more than simply oppose the fascists in order to then return society to its previous order. Instead, the Left should present a radically different vision that answers the same feelings of alienation and misery to which fascism presents itself as a solution.
Fascism’s ability to adapt to changes in technology, social systems, values, ethics, and the politics and practices of the Left is profound. As progress is made in Left circles toward confronting legacies of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and other systems of oppression, fascist ideologues will find ways of manipulating those projects for their own advancement. Preventing this cooptation requires understanding the core ideology and methodologies of fascism while being consistent about the motivating ideas of Left organizing, always striving towards greater freedom and equality.
Donald Trump rode into the White House on the same kind of right populism that led to Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union, emboldened Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France, and allowed the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party to enter the state. This creates the possible bridge between the mass populace and fascist or proto-fascist ideologues, who want to see a society of enforced inequality and essentialized identity. This bridging is a necessary precondition for a mass fascist societal shift, and should be seen as a part of the concentric circles that give fascism its ability to enact mass violence.
Resistance to fascism must then take on the form of mass politics as well, going after the macropolitics of right populism that bridge mainstream conservatism to the fascist cadre. This cannot be done only by a radical fringe, but should be done by mobilizing both the base that fascism recruits from and the mass marginalized communities that it targets (which make up the vast majority of the working class). The most effective counter to fascist recruitment is Left mobilization, and the only thing that stops mass violence is mass refusal.
White supremacy and social hierarchy are implicit in class society, but fascism seeks to make it explicit. The Left’s counter to this can also be to make that oppression explicit, to spell out the underlying hierarchies of civilization so as to undermine the fascist progression. The only thing that will end fascism in perpetuity is to destroy the mechanisms that allow it to arise in the first place. Destroying the impulses of authoritarianism and intrinsic inequality is a requirement for eradicating fascism from collective consciousness. The only thing that can do this is a revolutionary movement that goes far beyond simple reactions to the brutal movements of fascists.
 Robert O. Paxton, “The Five Stages of Fascism,” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 1. (Mar., 1998), pp. 1-23.
Shane Burley is the author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It (AK Press, 2017). His work has appeared in places like Jacobin, In These Times, Waging Nonviolence, Roar Magazine, and Upping the Anti. You can find him at ShaneBurley.net and on Twitter @Shane_Burley1
Tags: fascismconsocietycategory: Essays
In an era of #fakenews, it can sometimes be tricky to work out what is legitimate scientific reporting, and what is, well, fake. New research suggests there's a handy rule of thumb for spotting the work of climate science deniers, however: look for the polar bears.
One of the most glaring differences between legitimate science-based blogs and those that deny the science on anthropogenic climate change is how they write about polar bears and Arctic sea ice.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12401'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: arctic polar bearspolar bears climate changeclimate changeclimate science denialBioScience
A new phenomenon has emerged in the United States: 64,000 people died in 2016 of a drug overdose -- with 80% from opioids -- with levels of addiction nearly 500% higher over the last six years. Behind this epidemic is a multi-billion dollar industry, that feeds drug manufacturing giants, distributers and more. With the US government failing to address the crisis, one law firm has taken to a massive lawsuit. Head of that case is Mike Papantonio, who also won major lawsuits against big tobacco, chemical corporations and more. Abby Martin interviews him about this new suit, and why he is pushing for many executives to go to jail.
On November 13, Marcus Vaughn filed a class-action lawsuit against his former employer. Vaughn, who'd worked in the Fremont, California factory for electric automaker Tesla, alleged that the manufacturing plant had become a "hotbed for racist behavior." Employees and supervisors, he asserted, had routinely lobbed racial epithets at him and his fellow Black colleagues.
Vaughn said he complained in writing to the company's human resources department and CEO Elon Musk, but Tesla neglected to investigate his claims. In true tech executive fashion, Musk deflected Vaughn's misgivings, shifting the blame to the assailed worker. "In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology," he wrote in a May email. In late October, according to Vaughn's suit, he was fired for "not having a positive attitude."
The news of rancorous working conditions for Tesla employees is merely the latest in a series. Vaughn's case signals the broader social and physical perils of couching traditional factory models within the frenzied, breakneck tech-startup framework of high demand, long hours and antipathy toward regulation.
Tesla's Fremont facility has bred a number of allegations of abuse, from discrimination to physical harm. Vaughn's is at least the third discrimination suit filed this year by Black Tesla workers alleging racism. A former third-party contracted factory worker, Jorge Ferro, has taken legal action to combat alleged homophobic harassment. The cruelty wasn't strictly verbal: Not long before, in an ostensibly unrelated but similarly alarming turn of events, reports surfaced that production-floor employees sustained such work-related maladies as loss of muscle strength, fainting and herniated discs.
In response to Ferro's allegations, Tesla told In These Times that it "takes any and every form of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously." But the company denied responsibility on the grounds that Ferro was contractor, not an employee.
Tesla's factory conditions evoke those reported at another Silicon Valley darling: Blue Apron. In the fall of 2016, BuzzFeed detailed the consequences of the lax hiring practices and safety standards governing the food-delivery company's Richmond, Calif. warehouse. Employees reported pain and numbness from the frigid indoor temperatures and injuries from warehouse equipment. Many filed police reports stating co-workers had punched, choked, bitten or groped them, amid threats of violence with knives, guns and bombs.
At the time of these complaints, both companies had fully ingratiated themselves to investors. Tesla's reported worth is so astronomical even the most technocratic corporate media -- and Musk himself -- question it. Blue Apron, which went public this year, snagged a $2 billion valuation in 2015. (Blue Apron has since seen a marked decline, a development that maybe have been spurred by BuzzFeed's report.) As a result, both companies have habitually placed escalating pressure upon their employees to generate product, their executives eyeing the potential profits.
Predictably, these companies' legal compliance appears to have fallen to the wayside in the name of expediency. Tesla and Blue Apron factory employees have found themselves working 12-hour shifts, in some cases more than five days a week. Tesla employee Jose Moran wrote of "excessive mandatory overtime" and "a constant push to work faster to meet production goals."
In 2015, Blue Apron appeared to violate a litany of OSHA regulations, ranging from wiring to chemical storage. It also hired local temporary workers via third-party staffing agencies -- likely to circumvent the costs of such benefits as health insurance. As BuzzFeed noted, these staffing agencies independently screened candidates in lieu of internal background checks. Compounding the problem, the company expected temps to operate machinery they were unqualified to handle. (Blue Apron has sinceeuphemized its OSHA violations and claimed to have axed these staffing agencies. The company has not responded to requests for comment.)
Aggravating an already fraught atmosphere, the companies appear to have used punitive tactics to coerce laborers into greater productivity. While some Tesla workers are placed in lower-paying "light duty" programs after reporting their injuries, others are chided for them. One production employee, Alan Ochoa, relayed to the Guardiana quote from his manager in response to his pain complaint: "We all hurt. You can't man up?"
Equally culpable is e-commerce goliath Amazon. Bloomberg reported that the company mounts flat-screen televisions in its fulfillment centers to display anti-theft propaganda relating the stories of warehouse workers terminated for stealing on the job. (This offers a blue-collar complement to the 2016 New York Times exposé on its draconian treatment of office employees.) According to a former employee, managers upbraid workers who fail to pack 120 items per hour, heightening their quotas and, in some cases, requiring them to work an extra day. Those who don't accept overtime shifts, meanwhile, lose vacation time.
Amazon told In These Times, "We support people who are not performing to the levels expected with dedicated coaching to help them improve."
It's no wonder, then, that Blue Apron and Amazon warehouses generate highturnover. In fact, this is likely by design. By creating working conditions that not only extract vast amounts of labor at low costs, but also drive workers away, tech companies can skirt the obligation to reward employees with raises and promotions. A companion to the profit-mongering schemes of Uber, Lyft and now Amazon (through its Amazon Flex delivery vertical) to classify workers as contractors, this form of labor arbitrage ensures that owners of capital avoid the risk of losing wealth to hourly workers -- a class they deem thoroughly disposable.
Tesla has caused similar workforce tumult, firing employees for the foggy offense of underperformance. Of the hundreds of terminated employees from both its Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters and its Fremont facility, many were union sympathizers who'd been in talks with the United Auto Workers. The move has thus aroused suspicions that the company sought to purge dissidents -- a reflection of the anti-union posture that has characterized Silicon Valley for decades.
If the near-ubiquity of factory and warehouse worker exploitation in the news cycle is any indication, tech capitalists -- through their regulatory negligence and toothless "solutions" -- have fostered a culture of barbarism. Low-wage laborers have little to no recourse: They're either left to endure imminent social and physical harm, or, should they seek protections against the anguish they've borne, are stripped of their livelihood.
The blue-collar hellscape Tesla, Blue Apron and Amazon have wrought is what laissez-faire, startup-styled late capitalism looks like. At a time of such disregard for the fundamental health, safety and humanity of low-tier workers, the tech-executive class has proven nothing is sacred -- except, of course, the urge to scale.
The Dublin launch of the book, The Worms that Saved the World takes place on the on the 2nd of December, in the Teachers Club, 36 Parnell Square, Dublin 1 at 4.00pm.
In The Worms That Saved The World a group of earthworms living on an imaginary headland begin to suffer when a golf course takes up residence around their home. The worms attempt to tell the new owners about their concerns but they are dismissed. In response they organise and join with the other birds and animals on the headland. Eventually they reclaim the headland for everyone.
The book follows a real battle which occured between local people supported by others to maintain access to a right of way at the Old Head of Kinsale after the land was acquired to build a golf course on. This campaign which took place around 2001-2003, was to maintain that access for the people. It was a campaign that signified all that was going wrong in Ireland in the midst of the boom. Selling off parts of Ireland to leave us but strangers in it - taking what was held in common and putting up walls with razor wire and no tresspass signs. Anarchists and other activists formed part of a broad movement, along with the locals to campaign on the issue.
“The book was inspired by the Free The Old Head campaign,’ said Kevin Doyle, ‘but it is about a lot more than just that. It is also about the environment and the need to stand up for your rights while celebrating community and solidarity in our lives. It’s a feel-good book that kids and parents together can enjoy and learn from.”
As with all childrens books, it is the illustrations which really lift the story into the imagination of the readers, and Spark Deely has created beautiful art to accompany this story of the rebellious worms who saved the day.Tags: irelandcategory: International
Chile: In Memory of Renzo Novatore – Inconoclast, Anti-Dogmatic, Individualist, Nihilist & above all, Anarchist
Received and translated by Insurrection News on 01.12.17:
“The world is a pestilent, filthy, slimy church where everyone has an idol to worship as a fetish and an altar on which to sacrifice themselves” – In the Realm of Phantoms, R. Novatore
The comrade Renzo Novatore, pseudonym of Abele Rizieri Ferrari, was born on May 12th, 1890 in Arcola, an Italian town located in the province of La Spezia. Representative of ‘iconoclastic anarchism’, he fought with ideas and weapons against power until he was shot down by the carabinieri in an ambush that took place on November 29th, 1922.
When reading and analyzing the ideas and actions of Renzo Novatore in the present we can interpret them from several perspectives, but viewed through an anarcho-nihilist lens we can recognize his great contribution in giving strength to the entire framework of iconoclastic discourse and praxis – individualism – nihilism – anarchism.
Among them is the critique of society (wherever that is) as the point of origin for vices of humanity. Additionally, the interpretations by the comrade in his writings about life itself as something to be loved as a whole with all its contradictions, not as a mere exercise of egocentrism or contempt towards the other, but rather as the construction of the Ego, which can be more simply explained as the idea that we know of today as ‘being yourself’, the love for nature, the pleasure of destruction, the rejection of all moral values, and pleasure, yes, the purest pleasure that gives us the desire to launch ourselves into the nothingness.
Because there is a direct relationship between dependence and individuality, the more dependent, the less individual and vice versa. So that the last bastion of freedom is in each one of us, above and beyond any majority or agreement.
“But under the false splendor of democratic civilization, higher spiritual values have fallen, shattered. Willful strength, barbarous individuality, free art, heroism, genius, poetry have been scorned, mocked, slandered. And not in the name of ‘I’, but of the ‘collective’. Not in the name of ‘the unique one’, but of society” – Toward the Creative Nothing, R. Novatore
These, without doubt, are a set of ideas that we can recognize as great contributions and influences on the path by which some – always few – travel.
Novatore wasn’t just the author of various theoretical and agitative writings, but also the author of numerous actions and expropriations in his unstoppable fight against all forms of authority. So recognizing Novatore as part of the history of combative struggle against power, is to recognize ourselves as part of this story. And to see ourselves as participants in the war against all authority and domination via the destruction of all moral values and the understanding of the individual as the fundamental part of the development of our lives and the beginning of all our negations and contradictions.
Because nothing and everything is no longer a nice play on words to make slogans and fill leaflets, because the slogans and the leaflets need to be accompanied by actions to be coherent, let’s put our ideas into practice.
Empty and passive nihilism is useless, let’s destroy this tendency with anarchic nihilistic praxis like a collision of stars on a dark night that chaotically fuels the conspiracy.
Today there are many who have been inspired by Bruno Filippi and Renzo Novatore and dedicate themselves to the evolution of antisocial tendencies, from Chile to Greece and in all corners of the world the war continues…
Until everything in existence is destroyed…by the triumph of the self and the defeat of power!
!Renzo Novatore, presente!Tags: renzo novatorecategory: Essays
Dow closes well above 24,000 in yet another milestone | 30 Nov 2017 | Stocks powered to new highs on Wall Street today, giving the Dow Jones industrials index its biggest gain since March and vaulting the blue-chip benchmark to finish above 24,000 points for the first time. The Dow Jones industrials gained 331 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 24,272. Other market indicators also reached milestones on Thursday. The broad-market Standard & Poor's 500 index, which is widely followed by professional investors, had its biggest monthly gain since February.
Pentagon tried to block independent report on child sex among Afghan forces, Senate office says | 26 Nov 2017 | The Pentagon tried to block an independent assessment of child sex abuse crimes committed by [US-funded] Afghan soldiers and police, instead insisting on the creation of its own report offering a far less authoritative review of human rights violations perpetrated by U.S. allies, according to an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Although the report released Nov. 16 by the Defense Department Inspector General's office (DODIG) reached the grim conclusion that, for years, U.S. personnel have been inadequately trained to report such crimes, a parallel investigation by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is thought to contain a much more detailed accounting of the problem's severity. But the results of SIGAR's unreleased inquiry, which was requested by 93 members of Congress in 2015, remains classified at the Pentagon's direction, raising questions about the military's transparency and the extent to which it is complying with laws meant to curb such abuse.
The post Liberatory Community Armed Self-Defense, from ‘Setting Sights’ appeared first on It's Going Down.Editor’s Note: This essay is an excerpt from scott crow’s new book Setting Sights: Histories and Reflections on Community Armed Self Defense, out soon from PM Press. In it he describes the basic concepts and praxis of the book. Be on the watch soon for a chance to snag a discounted copy of scott’s new book through IGD at a discounted rate and check out our recent podcast with him here. Liberatory Community Armed Self-Defense: Approaches Toward a Theory
The world has been in tumult for decades, with more crises still ahead of us—from ecological and economic to political oppression and wars. These slow disasters will demand new approaches and open new possibilities. I think it’s time for all of us within civil society to think about how we want to respond, autonomously and collectively, without waiting to be saved by the same reactionary governments and corporations that have produced the crises in the first place.
In this essay, I will try to sketch a set of potential practices, praxis, and thinking centered on the narrow use of what I name as liberatory community armed self-defense. This distinct concept draws upon the histories of community self-defense, as practiced by various groups of people worldwide, and from the liberatory principles derived from anarchist and antiauthoritarian traditions.
The concept of community armed self-defense is a distinct development from grassroots social and political organizing models and notions of community defense, which at their core assert the right of oppressed peoples to protect their interests “by any means necessary.” That would include signing petitions and voting on one end of the spectrum to extralegal means of direct action, insurrection, or rebellions on the other. The Black Panther Party, for example engaged in community defense not only through their armed patrols but also through their survival programs, which opened health clinics and free schools in poor black neighborhoods otherwise lacking these kinds of services. This essay is an attempt at a critical reassessment of liberatory community armed self-defense: to re-envision the histories and analysis, to examine the praxis and bring these lessons forward to future engagements, and to broaden and strengthen our tactics and responses to crisis.
A Working Definition
Liberatory community armed self-defense is the collective group practice of temporarily taking up arms for defensive purposes, as part of larger engagements of collective autonomy in keeping with a liberatory ethics.
I am proposing liberatory community armed self-defense as a distinct idea borne out of a reassessment, spanning decades, of the historical experience of armed struggle and broader theories of the right of self-defense.
Self-Defense usually describes countermeasures employed by an individual to protect their immediate personal safety, and sometimes their property. Within the US, self-defense is discussed almost exclusively in legal terms relating to “rights” recognized by governments or constitutions, and only occasionally as human rights. By limiting the discussion to the rights attached to individuals, this framing fails to consider community interests, structural violence and oppression, and collective actions. The discourse thus completely neglects the defense of communities as such, and especially leaves out the political demands of people of color, women, immigrants, queers, and poor people.
Community self-defense in any form is not defined by laws but by ethics based in need (to protect) and the principles of anarchy (whether people call it that or not) by which groups of people collectively exercise their power in deciding their futures and determining how to respond to threats without relying on governments.
As a concept, Liberatory Community Armed Self-Defense attempts to take into account unrecognized types of violence and the limits marginalized groups face in their ability to determine their own futures or collectively protect themselves. For example, in 1973, when the American Indian Movement took up arms to defend “their people” in the occupation at Wounded Knee, they did so to bring attention to the horrible living conditions on the reservations and the violence their communities faced both from a lack of basic services and from armed vigilante squads. The town of Wounded Knee was not itself under attack, but it represented what First Nations were facing everywhere. AIM’s stand was a clear example of community armed self-defense, but it doesn’t fit neatly into existing typologies of self-defense.
Some Important Distinctions
Liberatory community armed self-defense is different from other forms of armed action for two major reasons. The first is that it is temporary but organized. People can train in firearms tactics and safety individually or together but would be called on more like a volunteer fire department—only when needed and in response to specific circumstances. Second, and possibly more importantly, power-sharing and egalitarian principles are incorporated into the group ethics and culture long before conflict is ever engaged. These two overarching ideas separate it from most armed conflicts.
For instance, right-wing militias—like the anti-immigrant patrols of the Minutemen Militia along the U.S./Mexico border, or the racist Algiers Point Militia operating in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—have nothing to do with the type of community armed self-defense rooted in collective liberatory principles. These militias are built on abstract fears and racist beliefs, conspiracy theories, and a macho culture where the strongest or loudest is the leader. They are typically organized in military-type hierarchies with no real accountability to the people in civil society and the communities they operate within. These types of militias are far too similar to the types of the groups liberation movements have had to defend themselves against.
That said, the adoption of armed tactics in any conflict or threat situation always has the potential to morph temporary defensive measures into permanent military hierarchies unless conscious efforts to counter that tendency and share power are maintained. A liberatory approach is necessary to minimize, or at the least mitigate, that danger.
The armed component should never become the center; otherwise we risk becoming standing militaries. To avoid that, and to equalize power as best we are able to, a liberatory analysis is necessary to nurture those who are learning to exercise their power, and for those who need to be accountable to their groups or communities. The liberatory framework is built on anarchist principles of mutual aid (cooperation), direct action (taking action without waiting on the approval of the authorities), solidarity (recognizing that the well-being of disparate groups is tied together) and collective autonomy (community self-determination).
Defensive arms should be used only for the goals of collective liberation and not to seize permanent power, even if their use could potentially, and possibly necessarily, escalate conflicts. In any case, arms are not the first line of defense and are only taken up after other forms of conflict resolution have been exhausted.
The use of arms is only effective for the long term if it is part of a dual power framework. Dual Power means resisting exploitation and oppression, while also developing other initiatives toward autonomy and liberation as part of other efforts in self-sufficiency and self-determination.
Those engaged with guns should hold the same power as others involved in other forms of community defense or self-sufficiency. Carrying arms should be seen as a privileged task, with the same importance as childcare, growing food, or taking out the garbage—and not more. To maintain a balance of power, rotate all armed tasks and training among all those willing to participate. All firearms training needs to include dynamic and evolving liberatory ethics and practices in addition to how-to and safety. Within any training or operation, there should be an emphasis on challenging internalized assumptions about class, gender, and race to interrupt typical gun culture.
Reflections and Questions Toward a Theory
These notes are only a beginning. Many questions remain, including those concerning organization, tactical considerations, the coercive power inherent in firearms, accountability to the community being defended and to the broader social movement, and ultimately, one hopes, the process of demilitarization. For example: Do defensive engagements have to remain geographically isolated? Are small affinity groups the best formations for power-sharing and broad mobilization? How do we create cultures of support for those who engage in defensive armed conflict, especially with respect to historically oppressed people’s right to defend themselves? What do those engagements of support look like? Additionally there are many tactical considerations and questions to be discussed and debated to avoid replicating the dominant gun culture. How do we keep arms or arms training from becoming the central focus, whether from habit, culture, or romanticization
There can be an end to the senseless violence for domination or resources. But if we want to transcend violence in the long term, we may need use it in the short term. We thus need to ask ourselves some tough questions about our approaches and our methods. When is armed engagement appropriate? How would we want it to look? How do we create cultures of tacit or direct support and include people who would never themselves engage in armed defense? How will we keep from centralizing power? When do the consequences outweigh the benefits? There are no blueprints; we have to create this together, step by step. We need to challenge ourselves and overcome our self-imposed limitations and shed our preconceptions of what resistance and liberation are like. When we do, we will gain confidence in potentially using deadly tools with a liberatory consciousness. That means we have to understanding that the values of power-sharing and openness are every bit as important as the power of carrying loaded weapons.
Arms will never offer the only answer to exercising or equalizing power. Only we can do that, but they can be a deterrent against real threats, and can greatly expand our tools of liberation. Community armed self-defense opens up the possibility of changing the rules of engagement. It doesn’t always make situations less violent, but it can help to balance the inequity of power among individuals and diverse communities. I am not calling for us all to rise up in arms but to rethink how we defend ourselves. We can dream, we can build new worlds, but to do so we must not forget to resist on our own terms.
ICE seeks to deport immigrant acquitted in Kate Steinle case | 30 Nov 2017 | U.S. immigration officials announced Thursday that they will seek to deport Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant acquitted earlier in the day of murder in the 2015 shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement Thursday night blasting San Francisco for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities before the deadly shooting, arguing the city could have prevented Steinle's death. "San Francisco's policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law," ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan said in the statement. "This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets."
Undocumented immigrant acquitted in Kate Steinle murder trial | 30 Nov 2017 | A San Fransisco jury has acquitted an undocumented immigrant who was charged with the murder of Kate Steinle. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was acquitted of the murder charge following the 2015 shooting, according to the San Fransisco Chronicle. Steinle was fatally wounded while walking the San Francisco waterfront in 2015 by Zarate, who had been deported to Mexico on five previous occasions. She was 32 years old.
Just before news broke that President Trump's former national security adviser Mike Flynn will plead guilty this morning to lying to the FBI, we spoke with national security reporter Marcy Wheeler, who anticipated the news and said it could "dramatically change how Republicans face the Russian investigation."
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, The New York Times reported President Trump pressured senior Senate Republicans over the summer, including the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, to drop Mueller's probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. News coming amidst reports that Mueller's investigators recently questioned senior White House advisor and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over a meeting with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.
MARCY WHEELER: Right, and this is actually one of the reasons why this switch isn't going to happen, because I don't think Pompeo is confirmable by the senate foreign relations committee, because we have learned a lot more of his implication in the Russian story.
The Kushner meeting was reported as kind of one of the last things that Mueller had to put into place before this plea agreement that people have been talking about with Mike Flynn. And that suggests that there is more news about to drop regarding Mike Flynn that I think is going to really dramatically change how Republicans take the Russian investigation.
Flynn had been avoiding discussing plea agreements for months and months and months, and then really in the last two weeks, all of a sudden it seems like it's about to happen. Mueller has more leverage over Flynn in the last couple of weeks. It may be Turkey, because a key witness in New York has turned state's evidence and apparently has information on Flynn. I think there's some other information.
And so, Flynn, we expect, is moving towards a plea agreement. We expect, or I expect, that's going to add a lot more pressure on Trump. And I have been saying for months that the way to get to Kushner is through Flynn. Because a lot of the events in which Flynn was involved, such as meeting with Sergei Kislyak in December, they connect very closely with activities that Kushner is known to be involved with.
So that seems to be where things are moving. And this Pompeo news seems impossible against that background, because Pompeo has helped Trump to cover up this Russia thing. And I don't see Bob Corker and I don't see Marco Rubio, who are both Senate foreign relations committee members, I do not see them supporting Pompeo having an even bigger role in the administration as this Russia stuff opens up.
AMY GOODMAN: And Flynn and Turkey. Can you explain what has been uncovered at this point?
MARCY WHEELER: Flynn was a consultant for the Turkish government, but through some cutouts, right? And he is alleged to have A, discussed on two different occasions basically kidnapping a cleric who lives in Pennsylvania that the Turkish government considers one of their big enemies. They blame him for the attempted coup earlier this year. So that's one thing is that he has talked about kidnapping an American permanent resident on behalf of another government.
The other thing is that there was a guy named Reza Zarrab who was charged in a sanctions avoidance laundering case in New York. Basically, laundering money to get gold to Iran. That connects very closely with Turkey's president. But that guy, Zarrab, made a plea agreement basically, and that just came out this week. The trial in which he is testifying is rolling out. But he is believed to have some information about Flynn's efforts to free him on behalf of the Turkish government.
And again, this is another case where Flynn did not disclose these monies. He was working as the transition national security adviser and being paid by a foreign government. There is a much stronger case against him on this Turkish stuff even than on the Russian stuff. So I think not only is it easier to charge him with this stuff -- and that would be kind of similar to what happened to Paul Manafort -- but also it would -- one of the things that has been reported to happen is it would implicate his son, Mike Flynn, Jr., who was involved in some of these things. And so one of the motives that Flynn might have for flipping, for cooperating with Mueller, is to keep his son out of prison.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, do you think this could account for all these developments this week? Could account for the further unraveling of President Trump? Tweeting out these racist, Islamophobic videos, talking about President Obama once again -- as he led the birther movement, Trump did -- and all of the things he has done? You know, the "Pocahontas comments in the midst of a Navajo code talker ceremony in the oval office in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson. But all of this coming one after another has Republicans scratching their heads as well.
MARCY WHEELER: It is hard to measure the next outrage from the president, but I do think that he is hearing footsteps. I do think he continues to try and convince those around him that he is not in any risk of this investigation. That is ridiculous at this point. It is clear that Mueller is investigating him for obstruction, if not far more. And these attempts to distract attention -- but I also think -- and this will segue into your next piece, but I also think he is also attempting to distract from the fact that he is about to, in the name of tax reform, carry out this vast looting of the American poor and middle class. So, it serves two purposes -- distract from Russia but also distract from the tax bill that they are rushing through Congress this week.
AMY GOODMAN: Marcy Wheeler, we want to thank you so much for being with us. Independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties, runs the website Emptywheel.net. We'll link to your piece, Throwing H2O on the Pompeo to State Move. This is Democracy Now!
When we come back, we go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to talk about a little-known provision of the tax law that has to do with opening up the Arctic to drilling. And then we will go to Mogadishu. We will talk about the latest on a massacre that took place there. What was the US involvement? Finally, we will look at the Impeach Trump movement. Stay with us.
A startling Thursday night report from the New York Times outlines how President Donald Trump tried to pressure top Republican lawmakers in the US Senate to end the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia.
"It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’" Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the committee’s chairman, said to the Times.
Trump reportedly called Burr's congressional colleagues to secure assistance in pushing Burr to end the investigation. The president also urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) to "swiftly" bring the probe to an end.
An unnamed Republican lawmaker says Trump called him to suggest he investigate Hillary Clinton and her ties to Fusion GPS, which had a role in compiling the dossier on Trump.
White House spokesperson Raj Shah said Trump "at no point has attempted to apply undue influence on committee members."
But Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said Trump's behavior is a breach of the separation of powers.
"It is pressure that should never be brought to bear by an official when the legislative branch is in the process of an investigation," she said.
A full year in advance of a historic showdown on school vouchers in Arizona, the Kochs are already ladling on the cash. Through their Latino front group, Libre Institute, they have launched a six-figure ad campaign targeting Arizona moms on one of the Kochs' favorite topics, school vouchers.
The TV ads feature a variety of Latino and Anglo "moms" singing the praises of school choice; the mailings feature cookie cutter "happy families" still featuring the "Istock" watermark. The campaign is an early attempt to sway voters who will decide whether or not to expand vouchers statewide in November 2018 when Proposition 305 appears on the ballot.
The ads encourage people to go to the website, Arizonaschoolfacts.com emblazoned with the motto "Stand with Arizona's Children." The website fails to mention that it is sponsored by David and Charles Koch, two of the richest men in the world, who believe that transforming the public school system into for-profit money-making operations is the "choice" Arizona moms should be making.
In the interest of transparency, shouldn't the outreach begin with "Hola! Somos los hermanos Koch"?Historic Showdown Over School Vouchers
Here are a few facts about vouchers not featured on the Koch-sponsored website.
Vouchers originated in Southern states as a way of getting around the Brown vs. Board of education series of Supreme Court decisions requiring the desegregation of schools, as CMD has detailed.
Vouchers were taken up and promoted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council in the 1980's and was implemented into law for the first time by Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, a big ALEC booster. At ALEC today, private companies like the scandal-plagued K12 Inc. which are supported by US taxpayers and pay their CEOs millions in annual salaries ($4 million in 2017 ) are pushing hard for the privatization of US schools so they can rake in more profits.
In April 2017, the Arizona Legislature narrowly passed SB 1431, which is geared to expanding the state's small "Empowerment Scholarship Account" program, to all 1.1 million school children over time.
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (or what ALEC calls "educational savings accounts") work like school vouchers because they siphon off public taxpayer money for private and religious schools. The "accounts" were developed by voucher proponents as a way of getting around constitutional prohibitions on the use of public money for religious schools.
The bill was put forward by ALEC member and State Senator Debbie Lesko. A passel of interlinked right-wing groups, including the Koch's American's for Prosperity astroturf group, the DeVos American Federation for Children, Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the Arizona School Choice Trust, advocates for religious schools, and a passel of Bradley-funded groups like the Goldwater Institute and the Cato Institute weighed in. (The $900 million Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has spent hundreds of millions advancing private and religious school vouchers.)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law on April 6, 2017. On cue, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called the bill a "big win" for students and parents. While vouchers were initially billed as a social mobility ticket for minority or disadvantaged students, "universal vouchers" for all families -- rich and poor -- attending both private and religious schools, are now openly the goal of ALEC and most school voucher proponents.
As part of a deal to swing key GOP support the Arizona program was capped at 30,000 students, but the cap is clearly intended to be temporary. On passage of the bill, the Goldwater Institute immediately sent out a victory email stating: "Fifty years in the making, and tonight we closed the deal! Universal education savings accounts. There is a cap at 5,000 new kids per year; we will get it lifted."
But that was not the end of this story.Save Our Schools
Public school advocates formed Save Our Schools Arizona and organized to put the issue to a state-wide referendum. Arizona law allows for a "veto referendum" on laws passed by the legislature if opponents gather the requisite signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
Save Our Schools filed 111,540 signatures with the Secretary of State, much more than the 75,000 required. Secretary of State Michele Reagan announced that referendum proponents submitted a sufficient number of signatures and certified the measure for the ballot as Arizona Proposition 305 on September 8, 2017.
Proponents of the expanded voucher program resorted to classic tactics to attack Save Our Schools and its allies, including ethics complaints against signature gatherers (who allegedly failed to check the volunteer box on the form), robocalls , and lawsuits.
In August, the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity filed suit alleging irregularities with the signature collection process; this suit was quickly dismissed by the courts, but the same team filed a second suit on similar grounds, which is still pending. Moreover, AFP appears ready to primary the few Republicans who voted no on the voucher expansion. Rep. Heather Carter, who voted no on expansion faces competition by high-school teacher Brian Lesinski. Lesinski said he was inspired to run about a year ago, after completing a "leadership academy" training sponsored by Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Rather than throwing up their hands and surrendering to the outside dark money forces already invading their state, Dawn Penich-Thacker, Save our Schools Arizona Co-founder and spokesperson tells CMD they are ready to battle the Kochs.
"The Kochs and their affiliates have poured millions into Arizona over the years, yet 95 percent of families still choose public schools. Just this month, every single public school bond and tax ballot measure in the Phoenix metropolis passed by margins of two to one," said Penich-Thacker.
In state after state, citizen groups have faced big money opposition and won, most recently in Colorado where a complex web of dark money groups and a passel of institutions funded by the Bradley Foundation attempted to capture school boards to advance vouchers at the local level and failed spectacularly.
Moreover, public school advocates know that while ALEC legislators have been successful in getting limited school voucher schemes passed in state houses across the nation, these measures never succeed when they are put to the ballot.
"The Kochs, Libre, DeVos, ALEC and the rest of the ideological billionaires may be able to buy the hearts and minds of elected officials, but they can't buy the hearts and minds of regular Arizonans," says Penich-Thacker.
What do a podcaster from Portland, an actor on the CBS drama "Criminal Minds" and a retired lawyer in central Iowa have in common? They've all become activists of sorts in the last year. What's driving them is a simple weekly checklist compiled by another newbie activist: Salem, Oregon, writer Jen Hofmann. Hoffman started the Americans of Conscience Action Checklist a year ago, and now the newsletter, based in Salem, Oregon, has 70,000 subscriptions.Activists chant and display signs at at a protest prior to World AIDS Day on November 29, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Working Families Party) Ready to challenge injustice and spark real change? So are we. Support Truthout's mission today by making a tax-deductible donation.
What do a podcaster from Portland, an actor on the CBS drama Criminal Minds and a retired lawyer in central Iowa have in common?
They've all become activists of sorts in the last year, staking out a corner of their otherwise busy lives to regularly make calls, write letters and perform a range of other actions in support of democracy and equality.
What's driving them is a simple weekly checklist compiled by another newbie activist: Salem, Oregon, writer Jen Hofmann.
Hofmann started Americans of Conscience Action Checklist a year ago as a resource for friends struggling to make sense of the wave of post-election petitions on social media. In those days of outrage and confusion -- between near-daily rallies and protests -- her checklist became a menu of actions for people seeking to push back against divisive rhetoric and extremism flooding the country.
Hofmann spends 20 to 30 hours a week creating the list on a volunteer basis and over time has hit on a winning formula of well-researched, hype-free, values-based suggestions, along with a recommended reading list and a blend of positive news.
"Jen's checklist came along at a time when people were trying to figure out how best to respond," says Asha Dornfest, the Portland podcaster and author who uses it as a key resource for a women's activism Facebook group she runs. "She offered concrete action steps to take and she did it in a way that was so human … and so welcoming to a wide swath of people."
A year in, as the resistance landscape continues to shift -- with new projects joining the movement as others lose steam and fall off -- Hofmann's project continues to carve out an important niche.
Posted each Sunday, it prioritizes the important over the urgent, and under-the-radar but critical issues over what's grabbing the big headlines. Key issues range from healthcare access to immigrant justice and voting rights to the Republican tax plan. While most of what Hofmann includes on the list is political, some is decidedly not: like promoting a fundraising campaign for America's classrooms.
"I look for things that have to do with democracy getting stronger," she says.
Her checklist also has an "acts of gratitude" section to encourage readers to recognize good deeds, such as a recent "thank you" to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for their steadfast commitment on climate change. She listed the European leaders' mailing addresses.
What the checklist doesn't include is noteworthy, too: name-calling and scary hype. Instead, Hofmann peppers it with something you seldom find in resistance paraphernalia: reminders to celebrate victories and practice self-care.
"We underestimate how slowly change happens, especially in democracy," says Hofmann, who makes sure to get out in the Oregon woods every week after compiling the checklist. "To keep that endurance, we really need to focus on self-care."
No one's been more surprised at the checklist's reach than Hofmann herself, who had little to no activism cred before last year. What she did have, however, was serious organization chops and experience with research and social media.
She posted the first edition in a simple Google doc on her website and sent a link by email to about 25 people. It was shared more than 1,600 times on Facebook. By the Women's March, on the day after the inauguration, 7,000 people across the country were subscribing to it. Now subscriptions hover around 70,000.
Hofmann has heard from couples who use her list as a date-night event -- activism served up with a glass of wine. One reader was inspired to start a political book club. And a Mar-a-Lago neighbor of Donald Trump has used the checklist to fuel activism among her neighbors and as a quick go-to list for herself.
Calvin's List, an eco-action checklist, is modeled after Hofmann's. And her list has gotten shoutouts from both moderate Republicans and celebrities: Kirsten Vangsness, who stars in the CBS drama series Criminal Minds as FBI analyst Penelope Garcia, is a faithful reader, sometimes sharing it with her 618,000 Twitter followers. "Jen acknowledges everyone's humanity and focuses on condemning actions not people," Vangsness notes.
Here are other ways Hofmann's checklist is motivating people:Slogging for Change in Swing States
Many of Hofmann's subscribers are part-time activists. Not Kurt Hatcher. Before the 2016 election, the 33-year-old worked as an environmental sustainability manager at the University of Dayton in Ohio. When his state swung to Trump, Hatcher left his job to resist full time. As a leader in the Dayton Indivisibility for All (DIFA) group and precinct captain for the Montgomery County Democratic party, he spends his days on the often-tedious work of advancing progressive issues.
And while he relies on other sites for local resources, Hofmann's list has been his top resource on many national issues, such as immigration. "Jen put immigration on my radar," he says. "She created call scripts that made sense, and included links that allowed me to learn more." When a local family, threatened with deportation, contacted DIFA seeking help, Hatcher says, his group was ready to connect them with local sources -- all because of Hofmann. "Jen is our force multiplier. She enables us to do so much more than we could on our own."
Several states away, in central Iowa, a retired lawyer named Bev Clark describes how Hofmann's checklist has gotten her more engaged. Every Sunday night when it lands in her email, she prints it out and marks it up with actions she plans to pursue. "It serves as a blueprint; I don't have to scratch my head all week about what to do."
Clark -- who lives on a farm and is a gun owner -- makes calls, posts actions in a private activism Facebook group and meets with politicians.
She is a faithful follower of the acts of gratitude section on the list. "I wrote a thank-you note to George W. Bush about that speech that he gave. I told my husband "Can you believe this?'"Showing Love to a Dreamer
"Nestor is a 27-year-old Dreamer who has been at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia for nine months."
That's how Hofmann's May 21 checklist message about Nestor Avila began. A graduate of Appalachian State University who was raised in North Carolina, Avila had been detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2016.
In a tragic subplot, he later sustained a foot injury when a truck crashed into the ICE van that was transporting him. During his detention, Avila battled depression as he struggled with physical recovery. When Hofmann read about efforts by a group called Project South to expose conditions inside two ICE detention centers, she reached out to see how she could amplify the organization's work. Alerted to Avila's plight, she encouraged her readers to send notes of healing and inspiration.
The postcards flooded in. Avila hung them around his cell and, when he had his release hearing, took the cards with him as emotional support.
"Quite simply, they gave me hope," Avila wrote in an email. He was released in July and is living back in North Carolina. "I saw them as my own window to the real world."Fueling Weekly Action Groups
After the election, a Davis, California high school journalism teacher named Kelly Wilkerson toyed with the idea of starting an action list for people in her community. Instead, she found Hofmann's and used it to launch her "Thursday group." Every Thursday afternoon, eight to 10 people show up at her house for 1.5 hours to write letters, make calls, and make a difference.
Wilkerson provides a list of suggested actions along with paper, pens, stamps, and postcards -- and they get to work. She modifies Hofmann's list to add local items, but maintains the format of connecting each action to a greater value.
"I really, really like the way she organizes it, by values we all share," Wilkerson says. "That's a bit of a lodestar for me."
The result? In a year in which many such meet-ups have faded, hers remains rock-solid. She ticks off two ingredients to success: No snacks ("I had to keep it sustainable for myself") and absolute predictability. When Wilkerson is away on vacation, she has a friend run the group.Highlighting Under-the-Radar Issues
About a week after Hurricane Irma tore a path of destruction in Florida, a Miami-based nonprofit called Women's Emergency Network (WEN) that focuses on abortion access for low-income women and girls, started receiving a small stream of donations from new sources. Curious about what was behind it, program director Rebeca Ramos reached out to the new donors to ask. It turned out that in one of her checklists, Hofmann had mentioned WEN, along with other groups helping safeguard access to reproductive care for women in hurricane-swept regions.
"We were delighted, in particular because they came from new donors, which is not very usual in our line of business," Ramos says. "We also appreciated her raising awareness on important needs which are not at the forefront of people's minds in the wake of hurricanes or other natural disasters."
It is precisely why Hofmann mentioned WEN. While similar lists and resistance efforts respond to the big news stories of the day, she says, "there are a lot of [deserving] groups that that don't get mainstream visibility."
Though Hofmann's year-long activism project is successful by standard markers, she is contemplating change as she looks ahead.
"I took a step back and realized I can't do this well if I don't change my strategy," she says. "The list has grown in response to the wide range of issues that I've covered. But the general consensus that I hear is that people are tired."
With input from readers, she wants to figure out ways to make her project more sustainable and better reflect her values. Step one is to focus more deeply on fewer issues, including justice for asylum-seekers, voting access and equality.
"The sign of maturing activism is to choose," she wrote in a one-year anniversary blog post recently.
Also in the works is a nascent project to catalyze "olive branch" conversations between conservatives and progressives in the search for common ground.
"For me, it's one of many answers to the polarization problem in our country," Hofmann says. "How can we have meaningful conversations with people who aren't obvious allies? That's the direction I want to go in: more heart and more simplicity."
This week's episode includes updates on Uber's corrupt profiteering, sugar producers immoral cancer research, Trump's personal business, neglecting New York subways, UK's historic wage decline, and Norway's sovereign wealth fund. Interview with economist Stephanie Kelton, adviser to Bernie Sanders.
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